Chalberg as Rickey
Fincken as Edison
Martin as Dunbar
Payne as Woodhull
Bowerman as Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller in many ways symbolizes all the contradictions of the good and the bad of modern industrialization. He created the modern oil industry and on the way became the richest man in the world. He is remembered for devious cutthroat business practices that always aimed at eliminating the competition. He is, however, also known as a philanthropist who gave away most of his fortune, accomplishing such goals as creating the University of Chicago, and eradicating hookworm in the American South.
At the age of 24, in 1865, Rockefeller began building what would become the Standard Oil Company. He devised a systematic plan to dominate the industry and by the turn of the century he controlled 90% of the oil refining and transporting business in the U.S. He realized tremendous profits by focusing on the details. To avoid prosecution under anti-monopoly laws, Rockefeller also pioneered such forms of business organization as trusts and holding companies.
Rockefeller retired in 1897 at the age of 58, but kept it a secret. As a result he was blamed for Standard Oil’s increasingly rapacious business tactics, although he had no hand in them. He became one of the most hated men of his time, yet by the time of his death, he had given most of his property away. His fortune established the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University, the General Education Board (later the Rockefeller Foundation), the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission and the University of Chicago.
Damian Bowerman is an MFA student of acting at the Ohio State University.
Chalberg as Rickey
Branch Rickey played a major role in shaping modern professional baseball, thus influencing all professional sports. He was considered sanctimonious, hypocritical and unusually tight with money. He was also, however, a baseball genius and perhaps the greatest front-office strategist the sport has ever known. Among Rickey’s many accomplishments, the most significant were inventing the farm team system, breaching the color barrier and forcing league expansion.
Born on a small Ohio farm in 1881, Rickey worked his way through Ohio Wesleyan College, and later through law school, by playing on and coaching college baseball teams.
After serving as a major in World War I, Rickey worked for the Saint Louis Cardinals, both in the front office and as field manager. During the twenties and thirties, he developed the farm-team system. This allowed the near-bankrupt Cardinals to develop talented players inexpensively. The team began increasing profits and would soon win five pennants. In 1942 Rickey moved to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he pursued an old goal of integrating major league baseball. Although he originally planned to recruit several players form the Negro Leagues, Rickey eventually settled on Jackie Robinson as the man best suited for this difficult task. Despite stiff opposition and abuse, both men stuck to the course that eventually opened all professional sports leagues to black athletes.
John Chalberg is a professor in Minnesota. He has several years’ experience as a Chautauqua performer portraying a number of characters, including Branch Rickey, in New York, New Hampshire and Idaho.
Hank Fincken as Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison may well have been the greatest inventor of all time. It has been said that Edison invented the twentieth century. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he created or perfected many technological devices that are now ubiquitous. Among his 1093 patents were the incandescent lightbulb, motion pictures, mimeograph machines, telephone receivers, and his favorite: the phonograph. He also established the nation’s first electric power system.
In his invention factory, established in 1876, Edison combined his creative genius with a driving work ethic. He and his crew sometimes spent days at a time in the shop working on a project, taking naps on available tables when needed. Once, after 10,000 unsuccessful experiments on a storage battery, he said, “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A self-made man in a self-made nation, Edison became a national icon.
Hank Fincken is a professional actor with wide experience portraying historical characters, He has been portraying Thomas Edison for the past ten years around the nation, particularly for the Indiana Humanities Council and in the New Jersey Chautauqua. Fincken also appears as Johnny Appleseed, Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro. Fincken holds an MA in English Literature and conducts ongoing research on all his characters. He regularly commits to memory several notebooks filled with quotes of Edison, so that Fincken can work without a script while still speaking in Edison’s own words.
Martin as Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American poet to gain national prominence. In his short career he published several collections of poetry, along with numerous essays, short stories and novels. In addition to attaining critical acclaim and wide popularity in his own time, he remains to the present a central figure in the canon of American literature. Dunbar had a remarkable understanding of how language was spoken as well as written. His use of vernacular English was comparable to that of Mark Twain, and his influence can be seen in the works of many subsequent poets and novelists.
In school, he excelled in academics, but still, because of his color, he had trouble finding employment and was working as an elevator operator when he published his first book of poems. To pay his debt to the publisher, he sold copies for a dollar each to people who rode the elevator. His second book brought him national recognition.
Dunbar died prematurely at the age of 33, but not before publishing a large body of work that remains the focus of study and enjoyment to the present.
Herbert Woodward Martin is professor of English and Poet-In-Residence at the University of Dayton. He has studied Dunbar’s work for more than twenty years and portrayed him throughout Ohio on behalf of the Ohio Humanities Council, as well as making presentations in venues ranging form the University of Hawaii to Pannonius University n Hungary. Martin also produced a video anthology titled “Paul Laurence Dunbar: the Eyes of a Poet.” He has written four books of his own poetry, and his avocations include singing and acting.
Payne as Woodhull
Victoria Claflin Woodhull was a woman years ahead of her time and blazed a trail that would not be followed by most women for decades. Woodhull published a newspaper and ran a successful Wall Street brokerage firm, but she is best known as the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency.
She stood for equal political and legal rights for women. She also advocated free legal services for the poor, more humane treatment of prisoners, the right of laborers to organize, public support for the arts and sciences, improved public schools, “free love”, women’s suffrage and free medical care for all. Few would oppose these issues today, but they provoked controversy in Woodhull’s time, Still, Victoria had been at odds with polite society all her life.
Born into a large family in Homer, Ohio, Victoria from childhood believed she was in communication with spirits. The family roamed the countryside as a traveling medicine show. Victoria and her younger sister, Tennessee, became star attractions by conducting seances and spiritual healings. Later in life, she developed her advocacy of the causes she would support throughout her life.
Sarah Longman Payne is an adjunct professor of History, Speech and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Vermont and at Norwich University. She discovered Victoria Woodhull while researching her doctoral dissertation and immediately saw the potential for a living history presentation. She has been portraying Woodhull since 1980 for the Vermont Council on the Humanities, and has also performed in Woodhull’s hometown of Homer, Ohio.
Roger Zahab has written chamber, vocal and orchestral music in addition to work in dance, theater and video. Recent recordings have been made of Doubles Keening by the Pennsylvania Quintet, Fall/Return by guitarist James Marron, Personal Dances by the composer, violin and Eric Moe, piano and your offending kiss by Solaris. Other works have been performed in Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, London and Peru. As a violinist he has given more than 70 premieres of works by such composers as John Cage. His version of Cage’s Thirteen Harmonies for violin and keyboard instrument is published by C.F.Peters Corporation.
Zahab was awarded the first Louis Lane Scholarship (given by the Akron Symphony Orchestra) in 1978 and received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant in 1995. He currently directs the New Music Group at the University of Akron (which he founded in 1988). Zahab has been Director of the Orchestra and violin instructor at the University of Pittsburgh since 1993 and in 1999 became a full-time Lecturer.